Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…
I woke up with the feeling that I forgot something really important. Right!
For years, when I
was still director of art NGO for children, it was one of the most important days
of the year. Preparations started weeks before because we always organized a
major event for the kids of Copán. Not in the traditional way with piñatas and lots of candy, because we
figured the kids would be sugared-up more than enough and the piñata thing, as beautiful as they look
and as much as I’m in favour of keeping cultural traditions, they’re also quite
scary. Seriously, having a blindfolded overactive zealous kid swinging a bat
around??? I’m always amazed the newspapers don’t report a few smashed-in little
children’s brain the next day.
So what we usually
did was rounding up a bunch of volunteers and organize game stations: tug-of-war,
carrying a tray with cups of water over a balancing beam, sack-race, (Velcro) darts,
bowling and of course some art activities such as face painting or mask making.
Each child would receive a “passport” and had to pass through all the
activities spread over our colourfully decorated playground before receiving,
at the end of the event, juice, some cookies (whole wheat of course) and a
little gift bag, generally containing some crayons and a notebook. The kids
were always super happy and not once did we get a complaint about the lack of
candy and piñatas.
adults were always completely drained. While the kids would run out the gate,
gift bag ain their hands and looking for maybe another Children’s’ Day
celebration elsewhere in town, our team would barely have the energy to take
down the decorations and pick up the trash before surrendering to some much
deserved cold beers.
Lots of work for
just a few hours of fun, but time well spent. Children’s Day is for most kids
more important than their birthdays which are only celebrated by the (upper)
middle class. Christmas is important too, although the majority of the children
is lucky enough to receive new clothes to wear on Christmas Eve. Children’s
Day, however, is just about fun. And getting your hands on as many sweets as
possible, of course.
In my home
we don’t celebrate Children’s Day. We have Animal Day though, on October 4th,
when children are allowed to take our pets to school (which can actually lead
to situations as dangerous as bursting a piñata.)
You can’t miss something you’ve never known, but now that I do, I think it’s a
great idea to celebrate Children’s Day, even it would be nice to focus a bit more
on the reason for celebrating: It was recommended in 1954 by the United Nations
that each country should pick one day a year to promote children’s welfare and
their universal rights.
Children’s Day in
has little to do with Human Rights, or children’s welfare for that matter. It
has turned into a commercial and even political circus, especially now that the
elections are coming up. Yesterday the kids of Copán had a field day, running
from one piñata to the other, offered by the municipality and some of the new
chain companies in town. I doubt their strategy will be successful. Counting
conquered candy is much more important than the person who actually bought the
So yesterday afternoon,
while I was quietly and happily finishing up a sign on a local café, teachers
and volunteers of the local day care centre started arriving with that
exhausted look I know all too well. I couldn’t suppress a satisfied smile. As
much as I have enjoyed celebrating Children’s Day over the last sixteen years, it
is absolute great for once not to have anything to do with it.